February is National Library Lovers Month, and the Friends of Chapel Hill Public Library is celebrating the occasion with special rewards for new and existing members on Saturdays.
Secretary Michele Lynn said the Friends is a nonprofit organization that works to garner support and raise money to help fund the library’s collections and programs.
“Chapel Hill is a very literate community that really loves its library,” Lynn said.
Every Saturday during February, there will be a table set up at the front entrance to the library where current members of the Friends can pick up a free book, and new members can join. Precautions for COVID-19 safety will be in place, including social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer.
All that is required to join Friends of Chapel Hill Public Library is an email address and payment for annual membership — students can join for $10, individuals for $25 and families for $35. Anyone who joins or renews their membership will be entered in a drawing for a $20 gift certificate to the Friends Online Book Store.
Membership benefits include a 20 percent discount on the online bookstore, which Friends President Karen Curtin said is stocked with around 3,000 books.
In non-pandemic times, the Friends also holds big book sales three times per year, where members are allowed a preview of the sale — typically around 20,000 books from all different genres. The Friends also hosts sip-and-shop events that members can attend for free and bring a guest to.
“The biggest benefit you get is that you're investing in the community’s library,” Lynn said. “I just think it's important for people to know that we have this incredible resource that we can access for free, but to make a small contribution makes such an impact.”
The Friends doesn’t just conduct book sales — it also engages in community outreach. Friends member Marjory Moe said they donate books to organizations like the Durham Children’s Initiative and Book Harvest in Durham.
Additionally, the Friends puts together bags of books to distribute to about 175 children participating in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' summer nutrition program. The organization also donated book bags to neighborhoods in the area, including Northside and South Estes.
“Any time we can get books into kids’ hands, the better off we are,” Moe said.
In normal times, the Friends raises around $150,000 in funds to help the library further build its collection and provide resources to the community. Without the book sales this year, however, they have been trying to make up the lost funds elsewhere.
“(The library) provides so many services to so many people in the community,” Curtin said. “It's not just the well-read or the well-educated.”
Curtin said the library helps people by providing computer access and training resources to those who do not have that otherwise, and that this service helps people find employment.
“It’s just a great community resource, a gathering place,” Curtin said. “They share ideas, they bring the community together, they discuss topics that are difficult. It’s sort of a cultural gem, I think, for Chapel Hill.”
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